HOME SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION MUSIC SOME PICTURES MYSPACE EMAIL ME
Nuthin' but the bare essentials:
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STRINGS: The sound starts at the strings. For rockabilly and older style upright bass sounds (dixie, swing, older jazz), I like the sound of plain (unwrapped) gut strings best. Götz in West Germany makes the best gut strings I've tried so far. Good luck finding them! Kaplan Golden Spirals (gut wrapped with nylon) sound almost as good and are more durable than plain gut strings, but I don't think anyone makes them anymore. They used to be manufactured by D'Addario. Another nice string is the Thomastik-Infeld Dominant. Nylon wrapped in steel, and have a nice pizzicato sound. They cut through a little better than gut strings, but still have a nice thump and a warmer sound than an all steel string. No good for slapping though. Also good for old timey jazz are D'Addario Helicore Orchestra strings, which have a nice dark pizzicato sound, although are not good for slapping either.
D'Addario Helicore Orchestra strings are also my first choice for orchestral work, and arco work in general.
For modern jazz sounds (60's Ron Carter, not 80's smooth jazz), I like either D'Addario Helicore Hybrid strings or Thomastik-Infeld Spirocores.
On electric bass for older roots rock, country and blues sounds, I use the heaviest flat wound strings I can get. Lately I've been using G.H.S. Brite Flats. Roundwound strings ground flat. A little brighter than normal flatwound strings, but still more mass than a roundwound string of the same gauge. They really feel and sound great. Big and round and nice and warm. A little more presence than a regular flatwound string helps to cut through the highs so the notes sit just right in the mix. The best regular flatwound strings I've found are G.H.S. Precision Flatwound. They don't have the presence of the Brite flats, but they feel great and have a real solid satsifying thud to them. D'Addario Chromes are also really nice. They sound great and are super smooth and easy to play. I keep flatwounds on the Danelectro DC Bass, the '54 Precision reissue, and they are usually on my '62 Precision reissue.
For more modern sounds I use the heaviest nickel plated roundwound strings I can get. Lately I've been using G.H.S. Sub-Zero Boomers. Great sound and solid feel. Nice string to string balance. Regular G.H.S. Bass Boomers are really nice too. Sometimes for a little mellower sound I'll use G.H.S. Pressurewound strings. I also really like DR Lo-Rider strings, and D'Addario Slowounds and D'Addario Nickelwound XL's. All great strings. Well made and dependable.
Right now I have three upright basses.
The prize is a hand carved Bohemian bass estimated to be built around 1740. Unique because it's back is made from one piece of wood. Musta been one big ass tree. I use this bass for some jazz gigs, sessions and orchestral work. It's the real thing. Words cannot describe the sound. Just wonderful. Right now it's set up for jazz with D'Addario Helicore Hybrid strings, but it sounds just as good when set up for orchestral work. Here's pictures of the front, back and scroll.
Up second is a fully carved Bulgarian bass that I got brand new from Bob Gollihur in the fall of 2003. Bob has a great website for all things Bass. It's my everyday jazz gigging bass, with medium action and Thomastik-Infeld Spirocore strings. It may have been new when I got it, but it's taken a few dings already. I've got a B-Band D-1 Pickup system on this bass. No muss, no fuss. Plug it in and it sounds great throughout the entire volume range. And no feedback. The B-Band is by far the best sounding pickup system I've heard for upright bass. Here's a picture of the front. You can hear it at my myspace site. It's "In Your Own Sweet Way", recorded direct (with a little compression and reverb) into my Korg Toneworks PXR4 4 track digital recorder.
I also have a plywood bass that is set up for blues/rockabilly/old timey stuff with gut strings. It has a label: "Especially made for Kschier Brothers in Vienna 1956". My dad picked it up at a goodwill in Pittsburgh for $100. It sat in his basement until I rescued it while on tour with James Intveld. This bass sounds as good as any plywood bass I've heard, and is equipped with a Barbera piezoelectric pickup custom fitted into the bridge. The pickup sounds great and looks great (it's practically invisible), and is very versatile. It's the only one I've tried that comes close to the B-Band. Not as true sounding as the B-Band, but I've had it since 1998, and it's served me well. Great tone at high volume, and no feedback. Sometimes I use both the Barbera pickup and an Underwood pickup if I'm going to be doing a lot of slapping. The Barbera doesn't put out the classic rockabilly slap like the Underwood, but can get much louder, and is much better for both pizzicato and arco. I tried the B-Band pickup on this bass, and it really sounded good. Very warm, woody and natural sounding.
Gotta have the Fenders. In the picture, from left to right that's a '54 Fender Precision reissue (Fender calls this the Sting signature model, but what do they know?), Fender American Deluxe Jazz Bass V, '62 reissue Fender Precision and '75 reissue Fender Jazz. All awesome basses.
The 5 string and '75 jazz bass are set up for more modern blues, jazz, and contemporary music, lower action and roundwounds. In March 2002, I replaced the stock Fender noiseless pickups in the Fender American Deluxe Jazz Bass V with Bartolini 57J1 pickups and a Bartolini HR-4.6AP preamp. This was a vast improvement over the stock Fender setup. Less noise and hum, more gain, richer tone, a much more pleasing sound, and well worth the effort to change the bass.
I use the 5 string with John Mayall all the time unless I'm trying out a new one, or the airlines have destroyed it. It's always a crapshoot flying with a bass in a gig bag, and it's only been seriously damaged a couple times, but it's a constant worry.
The 5 string never had the classic "jazz bass" sound, and with the Bartolini pickups, there's no way it ever will. For that, I've got the '75 jazz bass. It sounds like the real thing. Maybe because it is. I'm more of a P bass guy, but I like this bass, so it gets in and out of the rotation depending on my mood or the phases of the moon or something.
The '54 and '62 P basses and Danelectro DC Bass are set up for blues and roots/country gigs, higher action and flatwound strings. I use both P basses as much as I can. The '54 has a little more bite and thump, and is a little noisier, while the '62 is smooth ridin'. Like driving an old Caddy with worn out shocks. Pretty much plays itself. Which is good, 'cause sometimes it has to. Both instruments sound and feel great and are a blast to play. I'm not a huge Sting or signature model anything fan, but Fender sure got it right with that one. The Danelectro mostly spends lonely nights at home. It's a fun bass, and gets to go out and play sometimes, but the neck is pretty unstable, it's really noisy, and I love the other basses so much, it just doesn't get much action.
I recently got the ESP EC-304FM you see on the left. A reddish flame maple top, semi hollow body, Les Paul shaped bass with a set neck and EMG pickups. A very well made and good looking instrument. Sounds and plays great. I haven't found exactly the right set-up for this bass yet. I suspect it will be a very good recording instrument. Sort of like a hi-fi Fender jazz bass, but with a bit of a fuller sound. Sure is pretty.
WIRES: You have to get the sound from the instrument to the amp, and from the amp to the speakers, and you might as well do it right. There are lots of high end cables, and even more cheap cables. I never thought it made much difference, but I've changed my mind. It really matters. Some good ones are Monster, D'Addario Planet Waves, and George L's, But the best ones I've ever used are Evidence Audio. They make a huge difference. The sound jumps right out of the amp. Especially the low end. Everything seems tighter and more focused with more clarity, but still nice and big and warm. I don't know the physics of it, but whatever they're doing, it works. Thanks Tony.
The little red amp on top is a Walter Woods high power dual input 2 channel stereo amp. That's like two individual amplifiers; each amp can deliver 350 Watts into 4 ohms. With the power amps bridged, it delivers 1000 watts into 4 ohms. Crystal clear Hi Fi sounds, very true to whatever instrument is going through it. A dream to play. That's my baby.
Underneath the Walter Woods is a Gallien Krueger 800 RB. A great sounding amp, not as Hi Fi sounding and maybe a little warmer than the Walter Woods. Perhaps better suited for retro music. This is my road amp. I love Eden amps, but don't own one. My favorite amps to use when I'm traveling with John Mayall are Eden WT-800, or WT-1000, or Gallien Krueger 800 RB, 1001RB, or 2000RB. You can always turn down, but it's a drag if you can't turn up. The more power the better.
In the fall of 2006, we did a 37 day UK tour, and the backline company couldn't get a working Eden rig together. I'd tried Ashdown stuff a few times and really liked it. Since they're in the UK, I thought they might save the day and hook me up with something good. I dug out the phone number I'd saved from previous meetings with them. They were nice enough to provide an ABM 900 EVO II Head and one ABM 810 Cabinet. It would have been great for most gigs, but we're pretty loud on stage, and the amp can't be bridged. I could only run one side, and the rig couldn't handle the volume without breaking up. So to compound niceness with extra niceness, they shot over another ABM 810 Cabinet so I could run both sides of the amp. Kind of overkill, and the fellas were skeptical it would blow them off the stage, but it was just right. Once again, you can always turn down but it sucks if you can't turn up. I felt bad for the crew for a minute for having to carry all that stuff, but it sounded so good, I got over it pretty quickly. Big fat warm sound with tons of low end richness. Really fills out the bottom and provides a great foundation for the other instruments. Really fast and easy using the tube preamp to control how much of the warm fuzzies you want. This amp made me love tube amps like no amp has previously. Very well made and top marks all around for quality of sound, workmanship and ease of use. Completely different animal than the GK or Eden, and a nice change for the tour. I still love the GK heads and Eden rigs. Now I've got another choice. Conclusion: great amp with really great tube tone. Thanks Dan and Lee. You guys are the tour savers.
For low volume situations and jazz gigs I use an Acoustic Image Contra amplifier. It sounds way better than any other small combo amp I've tried. It's a three way system with a bottom firing 10" woofer that really fills a small or medium size room with lows, a 5" front firing mid speaker and a tweeter for the doggie frequencies. I didn't realize how powerful this little amp was until a guy sat in on my jazz gig with a five string electric bass. I was worried he wouldn't have enough power. I was more worried that he'd turn up and smoke my amp. It was kind of a big room, and of course he wanted to burn on his two tunes and make an impression. He cranked it up and let fly, but no sweat, the amp filled the room with volume and tone to spare. No distortion, no smoke, no buzzes. I had only heard the Contra from the stage before, and it was quite impressive to hear how the tone blossomed in the room. Five string? No problem. This amp puts out almost too much bass. Can that be?
At home when I'm carrying the gear, I generally use one 210XLT Eden 2x10 cabinet, sometimes two for louder gigs. Very powerful and rich sounding, very strong low mid response. I usually turn the tweeters almost all the way off. These are the best 2x10 cabs I have found so far. For older style music, a sometimes bring out a K&K 1x15 cabinet that I've had forever. I use either a 400 watt EV Proline, or 400 watt JBL E140. I'm not super happy with the K&K cabinet, and I'll probably get a little Bag End 1x15 cabinet pretty soon.
On the road with the Bluesbreakers, I hope to get two 4 x 10 Eden cabinets. Next choice is SWR. After that it's a crapshoot. Nothing puts out like the Edens. They're the best.
LEATHERS: For straps and gig bags, gotta have the best. That's Levy's. What a huge selection! And great quality too. The gig bags are tough and good looking with enough padding to stand up to overhead baggage compartment abuse and gate checking. Even been forced to check my bass at the ticket counter a few times, and was expecting a bag full of splinters at the other end, and had only minimal damage a couple times. More a testimonial for luck than anything, but they do make great gig bags. We do a lot of flying, and it's important to have a bag that's heavy enough to take a beating, but light enough to carry all day through the airport comfortably. Heavy duty zippers look like they'll last forever, and solid fittings, straps and connections. That's a serious bag. The guitar straps are comfortable, look good, and are well made from high quality materials. A seemingly endless variety of styles to choose from. Very nice folks there. Must have something to do with being made in Canada.
SHIRTS: Gotta look sharp for the gig, and I never leave home without a suitcase full of Izitu shirts. They always look great, and are a breeze to take care of. Either wash 'em by hand, or throw them in the machine. Hang 'em up and they're dry in half an hour. If they ride around all day on the floor of the van in a crumpled ball, just shake them out and they're ready for the gig (I only recommend this for patterns, not solids or stripes). Thanks Jack and Cecilia.
OTHER STUFF: Then I've got a bunch of pedals. Usually I plug straight into an amp without any effects of any kind, but I like fooling around with effects on the right gig. Or the wrong one. Occasionally I use Danelectro flanger, tremolo, and Boss octave pedals. Lately, if the gig calls for it and I'm not too lazy to carry it, I've been fooling around with a Korg Toneworks AX10B bass multi effects unit. All kinds of cheeseball sounds available. I was using the wah pedal the other day and the didgeridoo player turned around and told me it sounded like a didgeridoo section! Certainly not for every gig, but nice every once in awhile.
The Tech 21 Sansamp Bass Driver DI direct box and preamp deserves special mention. I got this especially for touring with John Mayall. We travel light, and have the backline provided, which is hugely convenient. The only drawback is the occasional lame rig. The bass driver is a lifesaver. With the preamp I can usually get a sound I like on stage, and I've got some control over the direct signal to the mains. After the gig it goes right into the bass gig bag. It also gets some use with the upright basses. I think there's a little buffer preamp action working there to help match impedances and make everything sound nice like it should. Physics. Ugggg. The tone controls are voiced just right, and the blend knob really warms things up. Great for all occasions.
For practicing on the road and at home with headphones, I have a Korg Toneworks Pandora PX3B multi effects processor. It has a 1/4" input for bass and a minijack input for CD/Ipod/Computer/whatever, and headphone out jack, so I can practice anytime without bothering anyone. It's got a bunch of other cool stuff to play with too. A drum machine with 50 funky old drum machine sounding presets. Wacky sounding bass effects, pitch shifting for the CD input, and a phrase recorder (up to 16 seconds). It's a great little package and I can spend hours playing with it. I haven't had much luck with it on gigs. A little too hard to manipulate all those little buttons and switches and get all the effects levels set right. But it's not really fair to expect such a small package to do everything. The Pandora PX3B does what it's designed to do very well at a very good price. It's very useful as a practice amp, a great deal and a lot of fun to play with.
For recording little bits and pieces and fooling around, I play with a Korg Toneworks PXR4 4 track digital recorder. Endless fun, and a great practice tool.
For parts and odds and ends, the best place is Allparts in Houston. They have a great selection of high quality spare and custom parts for all kinds of guitars. Great prices and the guys are very helpful. Thanks Phil.
WHEN IT'S TIME TO CHILL: And of course for after the gig there's a refreshing martini to take the edge off. You can see a sample of my man Damien's best work sitting on the case of the Walter Woods. Available at Liquid Kitty. Highly recommended.
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